Rithy Thul: Founder of Koompi Laptop
Rithy Thul is the founder of Koompi Laptop, a Cambodian branded laptop. We were fortunate to have him join our Digital Economy and Social Innovation class and learn from his many experiences and challenges.
“Koompi was created by the need to share the knowledge we built ourselves”, said Rithy Tul. He also spoke to us about his challenges when he studied in university. The computer was expensive at the time (2006) and he would spend 80 dollars per month going to an internet café. Mr. Rithy took a break from school for two years to study programming and learn about technology-related by himself.
Mr. Rithy Tul also founded Small World co-working space to work with like-minded people who are passionate in business related to technology. Small World is similar to an internet café, but instead people come to learn about computer science without having to go to school. Mr. Rithy Thul established the first customized Linux operating system and kept using it and improving on it to make it better. He and his teammate collected old computers that people throw away and put it to work after installing his customized Linux on the computer. Mr. Rithy really likes Linux open source because you can customize operating systems according to your preference. You also can learn from trials because of low restriction licenses and those who are curious can dig deeper because it is edible. The team put the software and hardware to work together with the medium of Linux operating system. They gave those computers to students for free and those computers work perfectly fine.
The development of Linux open source by the team led a lot of people to download on their phone or computer without having to buy Koompi computer. Koompi was re-engineer in 2017-2018 to make the operating system work for the general public. With the developer team of 16 people and productive team of 200 people, Koompi was able to deliver to customers who did the preorder.
Mr. Rithy said that there is not much challenge for him to build Koompi because he treated the process and product as a “chef who learns how to cook”. He told us that for him it is not an innovation, it is the project of love, where he learned from other people, did additional programming and created open source software. Though Mr.Rithy said that there are not many challenges, he mentioned that at the beginning of his business execution, he wasn’t able to deliver products to customers because of the lack of finance and the team couldn’t produce on time because they hire a factory abroad in China that outsource those pieces of computer. Another challenge is from mid-November 2019 to February 2020, Koompi is out of stock and lost 400 plus customers.
More about Koompi
The price of Koompi is $369 per piece under a two year warranty. If the computer broke in the first year, the customers will get the new one automatically. If the computer broke in the second year, the company will change and fix the broken part. I asked him about the feedback from users and surprisingly, 98% of the 2000 customers really like the Koompi and the open-source operating system because they can be fixed without restriction. For the two per cent that didn’t like the computer, they can send it back and the company will pay all the money back.
Mr. Rithy claimed that he doesn’t want customers to buy just to show support for Cambodian products but to purchase because of the quality of the computer and the spec of the hardware. Koompi has quality assurance and customers can change a variety of window styles as well. Compared to other similar price computers, Koompi has better storage, better ram for high speed, and the computer process is as good as the computer that is worth $1000.
In every 1000 computers, the company keeps 100 computers to supply school in low class communities. Currently, they have supplied 11 schools so far, which are located in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap both in remote areas or downtown areas. Not only do they provide computers to kids at schools, but they also make sure that they are connected to the internet to enhance and generate opportunities to learn coding, programming, and explore many more things. With the help of the Koompi facilitator to stand by, students are able to ask for help from the facilitator and are able to use computers instead of waiting to have enough money to buy one computer or going to an internet café.
Koompi Academy also has online learning content where teachers from the school they supply computers created contents both Khmer and English and posted on the website for students to learn. Not only that it is about Khmer lessons, math, science, history, etc, but they also include how to use Zoom and those computer-based learning that are useful for students during this COVID-19.
Mr. Rithy expressed his thought that due to Covid-19, technology will be the best platform that transfers education and it also encourages people to digitize their companies like improving delivery services and encourage cashless society. I totally agree that Cambodia should prepare a better payment system and I believe that mobile payment will increase much faster than ever in the past.
Discover more information here: https://academy.koompi.com/#/